Targeted cleaning to tackle MRSA hotspots is the key to reducing hospital infections, an expert says.
Bed linen was one of the prime sources of MRSA
Microbiologist Dr Stephanie Dancer said cleaning should focus on objects which people frequently touch rather than on "catch-all blitzes".
She found bed linen, gowns and tables were a more common source of the superbug than floors, the Lancet Infectious Diseases study said.
The government said it was taking a hard-line against hospital infections.
MRSA rates have been falling in recent years, with latest figures showing just over 6,000 new cases in the last 12 months.
MOST COMMON MRSA SITES
Bed linen - 41% of sites contaminated
Patient gown - 40.5%
Overbed table - 40%
Floor - 34.5%
Furniture, bed-rails, side-rails - 27%
But the falls have not been fast enough to meet the government's target to halve MRSA rates by next year based on the 2004 figure.
Dr Dancer, from Glasgow's South General Hospital, said the problem was that hospital cleaning tended to concentrate on areas of visible dirt such as floors.
But she said they would be much more effective if they targeted hotspots that hands came into contact with regularly.
She added that without such strategies, campaigns to get people to wash their hands were not effective.
Bed linen, patient gowns and overbed tables were the most common sources with over 40% of these sites contaminated.
Door handles, bed-rails, furniture and taps were also common sources, she said.
Dr Dancer also claimed that the cleaning did not even need to be done with state-of-the-art cleaning agents.
"Hot soapy water is enough," she said.
"Governments across the UK need to reconsider their approaches. We are just trying to remove visible dirt from areas such as floors when this is not the best approach," she added.
'No single remedy'
She also criticised the Department of Health in England for the plans for a deep clean of hospitals.
"It is like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. And anyway it will only have an impact in the first week and then hospitals will be dirty again."
Chief Nursing Officer Christine Beasley said the government was using a range of measures, including enforcing hygiene rules with the threat of fines.
But she defend deep cleaning as an "important tool".
She added: "Infection control is a complex problem that needs a range of solutions and the fact is there is no single remedy."